7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

It seems like we’re never used to interviews no matter how many we’ve had.
Here is the little reminder about the interviewing process.

At the basis of every job interview are three steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Preparation
  3. Preparation.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

Every job interview is unique.
Some would say they come in all shapes and sizes.
Let’s take a look.

You can be invited to different kinds of interviews:

  • Traditional interview – Every typical interview will jump start with some of the basic interview questions:

Tell me about yourself
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why do you want this job?
Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
What’s your ideal company?
What attracted you to this company?
What were the responsibilities of your last position? Why are you leaving your present job?
What do you know about this industry?
What do you know about our company?
Are you willing to relocate?
Do you have any questions for me?

Ever heard of those?

  • Phone – This is usually a first-round screening for the typical interview.
  • Skype – Video first-round screening
  • Case interviews were once specific type of interviews for many consulting firms, yet today they are part of almost any NGOs to tech companies and include
  • The Puzzle interview – Explain the internet to a 8-year old in 3 sentences which aims to confirm how you think quickly and how you deal with a challenge.
  • Lunch interview
  • The Group Interview
  • The working interview for writing, or sales jobs, they actually want to see your qualities while working.
  • The firing squad – interview with several people from the team.
  • The career fair interview.

Even if we may think we know how to prepare for the interview, there are always specifics of our job application: special requirements, way of thinking and culture and most important specific interview questions.

Now, let’s see what are the specifics for a Project Management position.

Project Management Institute reports that for every $1 billion invested over $122 million is wasted due to poor Project Management. Therefore, experienced and well educated Project Managers are highly valuable.

What most Project Manager HRs value are:

  • Experience
  • Understanding of Project Management theories
  • Diplomacy
  • Versatility.

Additionally, they often think about three issues:

  1. Interpersonal skills – How will the person fit in the corporate culture? How it will fit in among co-workers? What kind of leader that person will be?
  2. Technical – How effective will it be in project delivery?
  3. Business – What are his business competences?

And many other.

In general, they want to know if you have what it takes to be a Project Manager. Or better yet, if you have a Project Manager personality with all its attributes. Consequently, most of the interview question will test those.

Let’s begin with the Seven questions for matching the best candidate with a Project Management position.

You got this!

1. Behavioral Interview Questions

This is your time.
Use it and give your tone to the interview.
Use it wisely.

What is the goal of these type of questions?

This type of questions will reveal your personality, skills and abilities. They go straight into your previous experience, type of work you have done which will clearly show what are you passionate about specifically.

The logic is that your past behavior may predict your future achievements and endeavors.

Potential questions are:

Tell me about yourself?
Why are you interested in this position?
Tell me about your career path
Tell me something about previous project you have managed
Tell me about your favorite project you have managed and what did you like most about it?
Have you managed a project in our field/industry before?
How well do you know our industry?
What projects you do NOT want to work on?

What is the best way to answer them?

Without too many details, be brief in responding in the form of anecdote. You should be as specific as possible mentioning examples from your real life experience, something engaging. Mention your passion, how you progressed within the project, what were the results and end-points like, etc.

You can organize your story by using the STAR technique:

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

2. Clear Communication skills

After the introduction, it is time to show if you have the most important and must-have skill for Project Management – Communication. From formal presentation to casual brainstorming to online collaboration you need know how to get the message across.

Communication takes up 90% of Project manager’s time.
In reality, how do interviewers evaluate this?

What is the goal of these type of questions?

They will certainly see your ability to think fast and answer complex questions during the interview. However, more important are specific communication abilities. Those includes a varied set of communication skills:

  • Presenting complex topics to wide audiences
  • Presenting and announcing bad news of the project including risks, costs, debts..
  • Resolving an issue with external experts
  • Staying on track when the discussion is going away from the main subject.

Explain when and how you have communicated different messages in your previous work? How was it conveyed? What were the results? How would you convey it now? What were the means of communication in your previous work?

What is the best way to answer them?

There is a simple test which can answer if the candidate communicates properly according to the 7C rule.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

3. Leadership skills Part I: Project organization skills – setting, tracking, evaluating

A project will progress only with clearly set goals.
The project manager is responsible for keeping the entire team focused on them.
Aside from proactive decision making.

Potential questions are:

Describe your Project Management process.
What is your approach on managing the project?
How do you organize an average work week?
How do you allocate resources?
When have your organizational skills helped to keep the project on track?
What software have you used previously to manage/monitor your projects?

What is the goal of these types of questions?

These types of questions are technical and about certain methodology knowledge and usage. Make sure you are at least aware of the possible answers.

“You have to have a Methodology!”

says the Donna Farrugia the Executive Director of the Creative Group at Menlo Park, California and she continues:

“Either software or book or years of experience.”

What is the best way to answer them?

The goals you as Project Manager are setting should be SMART.

This is what we mean when we say SMART:
S for Specific as simple, sensible, significant.
M for Measurable as meaningful, motivating.
A for Achievable as agreed, attainable.
R for Relevant as reasonable, realistic, results-based.
T for Time bound for as time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited.

As everything else, this can be exercised too.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

As for monitoring progress, Gantt chart is an excellent option for confirming the progress, small check-ins…

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

Many CEOs stress that organizational skills are the key to success. Similarly, Evan Harris, the CEO of SD Equity Partners says:

“One question you can expect to get is regarding the tactics you use to stay organized. Since you already have specific practices in place, this shouldn’t be a difficult question, but it certainly helps to have your answer prepared so that you can give a clear picture of how you stay organized.”

Another asset is knowledge on methodologies and readiness to quickly switch from one to another. For example, from Waterfall to Agile and back to traditional Project management methodologies.

4. Leadership skills Part II: Team management

Having a methodology and technical skills is one side of the coin of Project Management. The other side are the people you are working with: employees, co-workers, stakeholders, sponsors and many others. Interpersonal skills will make or break the project.

We were discussing the importance of Communication above, but other instruments come to surface. Conflicts, delegation of the tasks, difficult team members seek for more soft skills.

Potential questions are:

What soft skills are most important for Project Manager?
How do you encourage cooperation between stakeholders?
How do you deal with rude clients?
How do you deal with poor team communication?
How did you manage the team member who denied or struggled to complete their task?
How you work with Project sponsors?

What is the goal of these type of questions?

The interviewer wants to see how will you manage these situations without hiding the problems under the rug while taking the projects further.

What is the best way to answer them?

Theoretically, you can approach conflicts in four different ways:

  • Avoidance
  • Diffusion
  • Confrontation
  • Combination of two or three or more.

How do you deal with conflict? Be ready to answer this.

Aside from conflict, you are supposed to inspire the work among all the parties included, so called Stakeholder management. Even more, allowing your employees to grow and build themselves up.

When your interview question is How you work with your Project sponsors, it will reveal your business skills. It will make it clear if you are trained in supply-chain management, if you were responsible for administration or financials of the project, how you see your project sponsors, as someone who holds the budget or someone who reviews the project.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

Attracting and keeping the support for your project is essential. Project managers are key to maintaining the sponsors up to date on the goals and results of the project, keeping them motivated to support the work further and most importantly understanding the need and answer to question Why. This includes strong negotiation skills.

5. Time management

Potential questions are:

How do you ensure your project is meeting the deadline?
Have you ever had problems deliver the project outcomes/outputs on schedule?

What is the goal of these type of questions?

It is simple. Projects have deadlines.
Can you deliver the project goals on time and budget?

What is the best way to answer them?

Every project manager knows that things don’t run smooth every time. You will need a little help of balance between the scope management and schedule plus time management.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

How does this work in practice?

Every member of the project needs to know the project details.
In order to know what to do on time, first you need to know what needs to be done.
In other words, you need to have the scope of the project.

Then you use your knowledge on time and scheduling management to split the work through days left before the deadline. Try Teodesk.

6. Overcoming challenges

Potential questions are:

Tell me about a time your project failed.
Tell me about the time you failed.
What was one of the challenges from your last project? How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?
Think of the time when you learned from your mistakes?

What is the goal of these type of questions?

Problems and unplanned events occur regularly and on multiple levels: people, time, customers, accidents, scope, money, and many other. Basically everything we talked about in this text. This is inevitable.

Interviewers are less interested in what actually happened, but more how did you deal with this situation. What was your reaction and action. All they want to see if you have knowledge, skills and sometimes guts to overcome those challenges.

Challenges can vary from project failures to managing potential risks.

What is the best way to answer them?

Pivoting and redoing things from initially planned is an important skill. Even better learning from it. As it will happen again.

  • Pivot
  • Reevaluate
  • Re-prioritize
  • Keep the team motivated.

Now, just think of an example when this has happened to you.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

And the best way to present it during an interview.

7. Domain Knowledge and Skills to be a good Project Manager

Potential questions are:

What are the characteristics of your perfect role as Project Manager?
What is the most important skill for a Project Manager?
What is your best skill as Project Manager?
Pick on of the Project Management skill and why?

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

What is the goal of these types of questions?

Pick one and share your knowledge on the topics you haven’t discussed yet during an interview.

What is the best way to answer them?

Answer genuinely.

It may be any of the skills mentioned here or something specific for you, like consistency and integrity. It will be good to mention few skills, especially those important and matching with the culture of the company you are applying for.

Now, if this was not enough for you, please follow this literature treasure.

7 Project Managers Favorite Questions When Interviewing

Good luck!!!

Let us know how your Project Management Interview went and share your experiences with us.

In case you are an HR for Project Managers, let us know your thoughts or even your favorite question for the interview and why.

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